ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — A sweeping study of the U.S. Army’s data and communications network modernization is underway, as the service seeks dominance in increasingly digital-first fights, according to Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo.

Though it is too early to draw any conclusions, Camarillo told reporters Aug. 23 that the plan is to better understand all that is going on to upgrade communications and info-sharing capabilities and identify where the next big steps may lie.

“The focus is on building foundational investments that are going to enable the Army to be part of the joint force and to do everything that we have to do as part of our national defense strategy,” the services’s No. 2 official said. The comments follow demonstrations and meetings in Aberdeen, Maryland, with leaders of the Network Cross-Functional Team and relevant program executive offices.

The evaluation covers topics deemed critical to military superiority, including unified network operations, cybersecurity, cloud migration and adoption, data analytics, tactical radios and satellite communications.

Network modernization is among the Army’s top priorities as it prepares for potential conflicts with technologically advanced opponents such as China and Russia. Other concerns include long-range precision fires and air-and-missile defense. The service has struggled with connectivity between its tactical and strategic hubs as well as when bouncing from theater to theater.

The upgrades are also a critical piece in the puzzle known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control — the Pentagon’s vision for seamless information-sharing and tailored threat response across land, air, sea, space and cyber.

“Looking at things like JADC2, he asked us about transport and bandwidth. Are those things that we want to make a big bet on in order to get that particular capability moving, from an Army perspective?” Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, the director of the Network Cross-Functional Team, said Aug. 23. “He wants us to also look at our data fabric. How does that play into a capability that we can use across all services?”

The review was motivated by program evaluation groups, involved in the Army budget, and a need to wrangle the complexities of the portfolio and all its players. Rey said network modernization teams owe Army leadership recommendations on how to hasten or improve acquisition.

The overall process is expected to wrap this fall.

“I left the Army in 2015, when I was in ASAALT, and coming back to it a good six years later, it’s amazing how much ground we’ve covered, how much the programs have converged and diverged from where they were before,” said Camarillo, who previously served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army. “So it’s a really good opportunity for me to kind of assess where we are. I think it’s important to do it right now.”

“Recognizing where we are today, it’s a tremendous amount of progress,” he added. “As we look ahead to the next five years, where do we want to be? I’ve challenged the team to look at that.”

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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